Rep. Upton's Welcome Call for Radio Ownership Reform

Posted: 23 Apr 2007

See all articles by Adam D. Thierer

Adam D. Thierer

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: February 23, 2006


Chairman Upton's request to the FCC for additional tiers to current ownership caps is an important step in closing the regulatory gap between broadcast radio and competing platforms. Granted there are concerns raised over concentrated market power in the broadcast radio industry, where critics of ownership rule reform proposed by the FCC in 2003 claimed deregulation would hurt competition and access to information. But even while consolidation of the radio industry has taken place since the implementation of the Telecom Act, note that it has helped many firms to survive in an environment of increasing competition from less regulated media outlets. The level of concentration is also far less of a concern from an antitrust standpoint compared to other industries. Additionally, industry concentration statistics do not take into account competition from competing platforms and media outlets. The first reason why regulatory reform is urgently needed is how ownership regulation applied in an environment of scarce radio spectrum no longer makes sense in today's media market. Numerous platforms and devices used to consume audio entertainment now compete directly with terrestrial radio. Disparity in ownership regulations between providers does not leave a level playing field for competition. Another reason involves new competition and concerns about localism in media, where the broadcast radio industry has begun to both consolidate and deconsolidate in order to compete with non-regulated direct alternatives, such as satellite radio. Finally, speech restrictions are only imposed on broadcast outlets for the moment. However in a world of media convergence, this regulatory disparity leaves all new technologies and outlets vulnerable to speech restriction. Deregulation of the radio market is essential in order to ensure all media outlets are accorded the same fundamental level of speech protection consistent with our nation's First Amendment heritage.

Keywords: Upton, FCC, radio, radio reform, radio ownership reform, media ownership, broadcast radio, satellite radio, ownership caps, radio stations, radio regulation, Clear Channel, radio monopoly, radio market, sector, Telecommunications Act, Red Lion, Pacifica Foundation, antitrust, media,competition

JEL Classification: D40, D41, L1, L10, L11, L12, L43, L44, L50, L82

Suggested Citation

Thierer, Adam D., Rep. Upton's Welcome Call for Radio Ownership Reform (February 23, 2006). Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper No. 13.5, Available at SSRN: or

Adam D. Thierer (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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